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Carillon Co-Hosts Memory Cafés to Break Social Stigma of Dementia


Something as simple as going out for coffee can be incredibly stressful for people and families living with Alzheimer’s disease. A unique program to make those social outings easier and more fun for caregivers and loved ones is making a real difference for Charlotte-area families, thanks in part to the efforts of Carillon’s Harrisburg and Huntersville assisted living communities.

The first “memory cafés” got their start in the Netherlands in the late 1990s, and the concept is now catching on here in the U.S.  Community based Alzheimer’s support groups come together at regular intervals, usually once or twice a month, to host hour-long social gatherings at local businesses that volunteer space.  By focusing on the fun and social aspects of getting together with others who are experiencing the same or similar challenges, memory cafés are an alternative to the typical support group. 

Carillon’s first memory café was held in Harrisburg in September.  Garden Place Coordinator Dianne Asbill joined with the Cabarrus County Memory Makers group to host a “Sip and Paint” activity at Faith Coffee and Sweets.  The event was tremendously successful for all involved, and today the community is busy planning future memory café events.

“Memory cafés are part of a broader movement to make communities more inclusive of people living with dementia,” said Mary Ann Drummond, vice-president of operations at Carillon. “It’s also such a great thing for caregivers to be able to get out and socialize with their loved one, and be among others who are walking the same path.”

Shortly after Harrisburg hosted its first memory café, Carillon’s newest assisted living community in Huntersville joined Huntersville CARES, a local Alzheimer’s support and awareness group, to help launch two additional memory cafés in the Huntersville area. Twice each month, local families affected by Alzheimer’s come together for coffee, conversation and activities such as music, crafts and other fun pastimes at locations including Water Beans coffee shop and Hawthorne’s Pizza.

“Reminiscing music was the theme of our most recent event, which was standing room only,” said Richard Seifried, executive director of Carillon Assisted Living of Huntersville. “It’s amazing to see these families relax and enjoy themselves, without having to worry about people staring at their loved one. It’s really all about acceptance.”

Posted in Perspectives on Alzheimer's, Sage Stories on December 18, 2015

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